Star Wars: Rebels - Season One
Star Wars: Rebels, the new animated series from Lucasfilm, has just finished airing its first season on Disney XD. This marked the first occasion, since 1977, of any Star Wars tale hitting a screen without the presence of George Lucas overseeing the creation and production of the project.
After the premature canning of The Clone Wars in 2013, Disney quickly announced that a new animated show would be going into production. Tantalisingly, we were told that this show would take place between the time of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope, and would be called, Rebels.
Headed by The Clone Wars main man, Dave Filoni, Star Wars: Rebels, follows 15 year old, Ezra Bridger, who becomes involved with a mercenary crew of disparate rebellious types on his home planet of Lothal. Kanan, the reluctant Jedi, in hiding after the slaughter of the Jedi during Order 66. Hera, the unshakeable ace pilot. Sabine, a Mandalorian grafitti artist/terrorist and Lasat warrior, Zeb. These four 'rebels' are the crew of the Ghost, Hera's ship, and are joined by, mandatory astromech droid, the irascible and ever more endearing, C1-1OP, or Chopper for short.
Unlike, The Clone Wars, which had a remit to tell stories from all over the galaxy (and did so), Rebels is immediately a far more intimate show, focusing primarily on our five rebels and Chopper on the homeworld of Lothal. This can feel slightly limiting at times but I feel it's been a necessary setting off point for the show and feels all the more 'classic' for it somehow.
Beginning low key, the crew's adventures involve stealing from the local Imperial forces, gun running, rescuing imprisoned locals and generally being a thorn in the sides of Lothal's Imperial enforcers, Agent Kallus and The Inquisitor. However, in the second half of the season things pick up a gear or two and consequences finally come to bear when Governor Wilhuff Tarkin arrives to deal with the proto rebellion. With cameos from C3-PO, R2-D2, Lando Calrissian, (voiced by original actor Billy Dee Williams) Yoda, (voiced by original voice actor Frank Oz) and even the Sith Lord himself, Darth Vader, (voiced by original voice actor James Earl Jones) Star Wars: Rebels is doing its bit to bridge the gap between the two film trilogies.
Consisting of 15, 22 minute episodes, with the first two being aired together as a mini 44 minute movie, Star Wars: Rebels goes from strength to strength in its first season. The lead characters are all likeable.(I particularly LOVE Chopper!!) The design and animation, while different to The Clone Wars, is still fantastic, with great attention to detail such as the different textures on clothes and the facial expressions on the characters. I also think the show looks and feels more 'original' trilogy than 'prequel' trilogy and that is a huge positive for me. The music, by Kevin Kiner, utilises all the iconic John Williams themes of the movies and adds a twist here and there to great effect. The voice cast are uniformly excellent, with Freddie Prinze, Jr and Jason Issacs in prominent roles but I feel I must especially mention Stephen Stanton who voices Grand Moff, Wilhuff Tarkin. Stanton does an incredible job of mimicking Peter Cushing, who only had a few lines of dialogue in the original Star Wars and really imbues his character with a delicious menace.
Initially, I was unsure how a Disney produced Star Wars cartoon would turn out and early on, with seemingly no consequences for our main characters in whatever they do, useless stormtroopers who, as ever, can't shoot for toffee and R2 and C3-PO turning up YET AGAIN, it seemed a little safe. A tad unsure of itself. Once into the business end of the season though, Rebels won me over completely and with its last 3 or 4 episodes, bettered the entire prequel trilogy and Return of the Jedi, in my overall Star Wars ranking.
With the fantastic season finale ramping up the stakes ever more and a much larger world opening up for our little band of rebels, the second season has incredible potential for greatness. Rumoured to be twice the length of the first season (which would make it more akin to the season lengths of The Clone Wars) and adding Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, to the cast, the premiere episode is to be shown at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim next month and I, for one, wish I could be there to see it.
Nevertheless, once the season starts airing again I will be right there, as this is one saga I do not want to miss.